ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
One of the main themes throughout the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is ‘societal repression over the individual’. The book is written by Ken Kesey and based around patients’ lives within a mental institution. Kesey uses the novel to voice his opinion concerning the oppressive nature of control those who enforce the control. Such a repressive feeling is amplified by the setting of the institution, the patients and Kesey’s tone throughout the novel.
The setting of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a mental institution, in the countryside of Oregon during the 1960’s. At this time young Americans began to challenge conformity and live their lives around peace, love and drugs. LSD was a drug used both during the political uprising and in the novel as treatment for mental disorders. Kesey discusses how the world within the ward mirrors the world outside. ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ contains examples of behaviour and attitudes displayed by characters within the clinical environment of the psychiatric ward, which can be compared to behaviour found within contemporary American society. Notions of leadership and hierarchy within a class, sexism, and crime and punishment play a vital role in the telling of the story. Chief Bromden, the book’s narrator, darkly and fearfully portrays the institution. Within the walls of the harsh, bleak institution are several authority figures known as the "Combine" to the Chief. They control, direct, and manipulate every aspect of the lives of the patients. Nurse Ratched, who controls the Chief's ward, is the ultimate authority figure--a menacing, cold, callous, larger-than-life authoritarian who will stop at nothing to make sure the "Combine" maintains firmly in power. Kesey, through the Chief's narrative, creates a gloomy, hopeless world; a world where the facility's patients have nothing to look forward to except the inexorable clutches of insanity.
The patients are exposed to painful treatments enforced by Nurse Ratched. The electroshock therapy table is shaped like a cross, with straps across the wrists and over the head. Ellis, Ruckly, and Taber who are classified as Acutes has their lives destroyed by electroshock therapy. It serves as a reminder to the rest of the ward what happens to those who rebel against the ruling powers. If the patients are not sent to electro-shock therapy they are given a lobotomy. This is done to restore order and emphasize Nurse Ratcheds power and control.
The patients of the ward are also exposed to humiliating therapy treatments courtesy of Nurse Ratched. The group therapy sessions are a manipulative technique used to fuel the anger inside the patients’ heads. Nurse Ratched does this to keep the patients in the institution and to prove their constant insanity to Doctor Spivey.
Chief Bromden is a chronic paranoid schizophrenic, diagnosed as incurable, who is afraid of his own shadow. He imagines himself to...